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updated: 12/21/2012 8:02 AM

Hundreds of flights canceled as snow starts

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  • Mundelein resident Jay Stein clears the snow from his car window at the Mundelein Metra train station as snow fell for the first time this winter in Lake County Thursday.

       Mundelein resident Jay Stein clears the snow from his car window at the Mundelein Metra train station as snow fell for the first time this winter in Lake County Thursday.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Christmas ornaments are covered in snow at Flowerama flower shop in Mundelein as snow fell for the first time this winter in Lake County Thursday.

       Christmas ornaments are covered in snow at Flowerama flower shop in Mundelein as snow fell for the first time this winter in Lake County Thursday.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • The first snow of the season starts impressively large about 5 p.m. on North Arlington Heights Road in Arlington Heights.

       The first snow of the season starts impressively large about 5 p.m. on North Arlington Heights Road in Arlington Heights.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • Kevin Kurzawski collects shopping carts as snow first starts to fall, at the Jewel store at Randhurst Mall in Mount Prospect on Thursday.

       Kevin Kurzawski collects shopping carts as snow first starts to fall, at the Jewel store at Randhurst Mall in Mount Prospect on Thursday.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • A mixture of wet snow and rain falls at the intersection of Jefferson and Webster in Naperville Thursday evening. This is the first snowfall of the season.

       A mixture of wet snow and rain falls at the intersection of Jefferson and Webster in Naperville Thursday evening. This is the first snowfall of the season.
    Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

 
 

Gas up the snowblower and break out the shovels because the first recorded snowfall in 290 days has begun.

A winter storm warning is now in effect and lasts until 3 a.m. Friday.

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During the warning, people living near the city will see about 1 to 3 inches of snow before it ends in the morning. People living in the North and West suburbs can expect to see between 2 and 4 inches, meteorologists said.

Worse, though, will be the gusting winds that could top out at about 60 mph, officials said. The gusting winds will create near blizzard like conditions this evening and overnight.

U.S. airlines have scuttled more than 1,000 flights, hobbling travel just as airports prepare for the peak of the pre-Christmas rush.

According to the Chicago Department of Aviation, there were delays of between 30 and 40 minutes Thursday at O'Hare International Airport, with more 350 flights were canceled, primarily due to the weather. Midway Airport experienced more than 150 cancellations and some delays of 50 minutes. Southwest Airlines canceled all flights after 4:30 p.m. at Midway.

The heaviest days for pre-Christmas travel will be Friday through Dec. 23, according to Airlines for America, the U.S. industry's Washington-based trade group. More than 42 million passengers will fly during the holiday period, which the group defines as running from Dec. 17 through Jan. 6. Chicago's airports will handle about 2.4 million passengers from Friday through Jan. 2, the city's aviation department said.

ComEd reported roughly 27,000 customers out of power systemwide. ComEd spokeswoman Arlana Johnson said the hardest hit area was in the west region, including 22,000 customers in the DeKalb and Rockford area, where gusts that reached up to 50 miles per hour resulted in downed power lines.

She said about 1,500 customers were affected in an area that included Schaumburg and Buffalo Grove, and more than 600 crews were out trying to restore power to affected areas.

She suggested anyone with an outage text "out" to 26633, download ComEd's mobile app or visit comed.com.

Some delayed school openings have been announced for Friday:

Grayslake Central High School will be opening at 8:55 a.m., and Grayslake North will open at 9:20 a.m.

For more information, visit emergencyclosingcenter.com.

Other than the flight delays and power outages, however, the storm left a mild impression.

Metra spokesman Tom Miller said the commuter rail service experienced a few delays Thursday, but they weren't due to the weather; they were due to mechanical failure.

State troopers also reported the tollways were clear of weather-related accidents.

Des Plaines police and firefighters said there some accidents around rush hour as the traffic was building and the snow was flying, but nothing major.

Elgin fire officials reported that a parking light pole came down on a couple of cars at 6 p.m. in the parking lot at Jewel-Osco, 1660 Larkin Ave. No one was reported injured.

In Hoffman Estates, one branch was down on a power line, firefighters said.

In Barrington, police reported tree branches down on Ela Road and other areas.

In Long Grove, firefighters reported that a car crashed into a bridge at Robert Parker Coffin Road.

In Elburn, fire officials said residents experienced downed power lines and sporadic power outages.

Late-afternoon temperatures of about 46 degrees Fahrenheit were projected to fall overnight as the snow arrived.

• Bloomberg contributed to this report.

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